The Dent of Walter Umenhofer

When a dead whale stranded on the shore of Florence, Oregon (USA) in 1970's, it was decided to scale-down the issue by using twenty boxes of dynamite to blow the whale up; by sending into flight an animal that we call the heaviest in the world. When Walter Umenhofer parked his Oldsmobile ninety-eight Regency at the boulevard that morning, he could not have imagined a chunk of whale would land on the roof by the afternoon.

The Dent of Walter Umenhofer is a study in word and image on the relativity of size, especially with regard to things that are so much bigger than we are. For how heavy is the animal that we know to be the heaviest on land, while it spends it lifetime weightless in the water?
I asked various people about the weight of the blue whale and used the reference points from their estimations as a framework for this publication. With each answer, the size of a whale seemed to change.

How heavy is a whale? As heavy as a piece of a church tower, a few private swimming pools, a group of hippos, the inhabitants of a modestly populated district of Amsterdam. It is all true. Just as the folded out pages of this complete book cover the same length as that of the animal that is known as the longest, as well as the heaviest. When you turn the last page, you find yourself at the very end of the tail fin of the largest blue whale ever measured, or at the tip of its nose, if you prefer. We can continue to imagine its size, but the fact that a whale is big is demonstrated most clearly by the size of the dent that it leaves in a car and the fact that we can not wrap our head around it.

Artist’s book. Offset print on Munken Paper with Japanese folding. Silkscreen cover. Design in collaboration with Paul Gangloff. 21.15x16.92x3.3 cm.

In reaction to the news item that first sparked my research, the launch of the book was an explosive one. On 18 December 2015, a procession of people walked from Johan Deumens Gallery on the Westerdok in Amsterdam to the 'Stenen Hoofd' on the water side. A few words were spoken, following a count down after which a real explosive launch of the first book took place.

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